National Communication Commission (NCC) Chairperson Su Herng (蘇蘅) will brief lawmakers at the legislature’s Transportation Committee today on the principles governing the commission’s review of media mergers, with a special focus on the bid by Want Want Broadband to acquire cable TV services owned by multiple service operator China Network Service (CNS).
Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Yeh Yi-jin (葉宜津), one of the committee’s two conveners of the committee, told the Taipei Times that the committee had officially invited Want Want Group Chairman Tsai Eng-meng (蔡衍明) to attend the meeting.
Yeh said many were concerned that the nation’s media outlets were owned by a handful of conglomerates.
She said Want Want-China Times Group, which already owns TV stations and newspapers, plans to branch out to the cable TV stations.
The CNS deal would enable the group to determine which channels were included in the cable TV service, which would directly affect viewers’ interests, Yeh said.
“We want to give Mr Tsai the opportunity to speak and see if he can alleviate people’s concerns,” she added.
Yeh said the fact that two of the four commissioners scheduled to review the merger had indicated their intention to resign had exacerbated the controversy.
“Among the seven commissioners, three withdrew from the case because they were publicly humiliated by the Want Want Group in its acquisition of the China Times Group in 2008,” she said. “The NCC explained that the final ruling [on the CNS deal] would still be valid even if it was made by four commissioners ... Now two of the remaining four have said they want to resign.”
The commission last week said it would hold another public hearing early next month on the CNS bid, because it wanted to hear more opinions from different parties.
The following day, Want Want China Broadband issued a statement saying that Tsai would agree to attend the public hearing, which the company characterized as a “public trial” and a “struggle session” similar to those held during the Cultural Revolution in China.
That statement said Tsai would attend on the condition that the commission ruled on the case within two weeks of the hearing.
“Since last year, we have quickly and sincerely replied all of NCC’s questions on the concentration of media ownership, as well as other irrelevant matters [such as a report in the Washington Post that took Mr Tsai’s comments out of context],” the statement said. “We even used statistics to demonstrate that most of the calculations of media concentration are wrong, including those using the Hirfindahl index from the US or the method from the German Commission on Concentration in the Media. Excessive media concentration is not an issue in Taiwan, nor is there any media outlet that enjoys a monopoly here.”
Meanwhile, lawmakers at the legislature’s Internal Administration Committee also plan to question officials from the Mainland Affairs Council, the Ministry of Interior and the NCC today on how the government manages the content of advertisements from China.
DPP Legislator Lee Chun-yi (李俊俋) said he suspected the Fujian Provincial Government might have paid China Times to provide detailed coverage of the visit of Fujian Province Governor Su Shulin (蘇樹林) last month, when Su urged Taiwan to work with China on the joint development of the Pingtan Comprehensive Experimental Zone.